Published: 05 October 2021
1. Mdm Deputy Speaker, on behalf of the Minster for Home Affairs, I beg to move that the Bill now be read a second time.
2. The Private Security Industry Act (PSIA) provides for the regulation of private investigators, private investigation agencies, security officers, security agencies, and security service providers. It was introduced in 2007, with the aim of upgrading professional standards in the private security industry. This was to enable the industry to better contribute to Singapore’s overall safety and security, as the security landscape evolves.
3. Since then, MHA and the Singapore Police Force (SPF) have continued to work closely with the industry on various initiatives to uplift industry standards. One example is the Security Industry Transformation Map that was launched in 2018, which aims to shift the industry towards integrating skilled manpower and technology to deliver higher quality security services.
4. Security officers are vital partners of the Home Team. They play important roles in safeguarding Singapore’s safety and security. They are deployed for important duties such as screening, security patrols, and access control and wide range of premises both in the private and public. In recent times, they have also stepped-up to assist with COVID-19 safe management measures. These roles require them to interact with members of the public. While the large majority of the public are co-operative, there have been cases of persons confronting security officers carrying out their duties, with some going further to verbally or even physically abuse them.
5. From 2018 to 2020, there was an average of about 150 reported cases of such abuse a year. A survey of security officers conducted by the Union of Security Employees and the Singapore University of Social Sciences last year found that four in 10 security officers experienced some forms of abuse at their workplace.
6. Some cases are particularly egregious. In 2019, a security officer at Roxy Square was verbally abused and punched by a man; a video that captured the incident was circulated widely. Last year, a woman deliberately sneezed at a security officer at Ion Orchard, after she was denied entry for not wearing a mask.
7. MHA has repeatedly emphasised that we take a very serious view of the abuse of security officers. Members of this House, the security industry and union, have also called for better protection for security officers.
8. Hence, the imperative to enhance the protection for security officers is clear and present. The Bill will amend PSIA to create offences against common types of abuse faced by security officers. The Bill will also update the regulatory regime for certain security services, taking into consideration the development of the industry.
#1 – Creating Offences
9. Let me start with the first objective, of creating offences against the abuse of security officers.
10. Section 17A of Clause 3 creates an offence of assaulting or using criminal force to deter a security officer from discharging his or her duties. Section 17B of Clause 3 creates an offence of voluntarily causing hurt to a security officer in relation to the discharge of his or her duties. These offences take reference from similar offences under the Penal Code, and carry harsher penalties compared to similar acts committed against general member of the public.
11. Section 17C of Clause 3 creates an offence of intentionally causing harassment, alarm, or distress to a security officer. This takes reference from similar offences under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA), and the penalties are similar to harassment offences committed against public service workers.
12. Taking reference from POHA, section 17D of Clause 3 provides for enhanced penalties for repeat offenders who have previously committed harassment offences. Clause 7 amends POHA accordingly, so that PSIA harassment offence will also be considered a precedent for enhanced penalties in relation to the relevant POHA offences. This ensures that there is consistency in the treatment of harassment offences.
13. Section 17F of Clause 3 provides that the civil remedies available to public service workers under POHA, such as protection orders, are also available to victims of the PSIA harassment offence.
14. Clause 5 provides that the new PSIA offences are non-arrestable, unless committed in the view of a police officer. This takes reference from similar offences under POHA and the Penal Code.
#2 – Updating Regulatory Regime
15. I will now speak about the second objective, on changes to the regulation of security services.
16. Under the PSIA, persons who engage in the business of providing security services must be licensed. This includes security consultants, who: (a) identify and analyse security risks and provide solutions or strategies to minimise these risks; (b) provide advice in relation to equipment designed to provide or enhance security, or for the protection or watching of any property; and (c) provide services on security methods or principles, such as on preventing intrusion.
17. In January 2020, the Association of Certified Security Agencies (ACSA) and Security Association Singapore (SAS) launched the Security Consultants Accreditation Programme (SCAP), to develop competent security consultants with the requisite skills and competencies. The programme requires accredited security consultants to undertake continuous professional development, and also has a disciplinary framework for infractions committed by the members.
18. Moving forward, MHA will remove licensing requirements for security consultants to allow the industry to oversee them, including through SCAP. SPF has also worked closely with Temasek Polytechnic’s Security Industry Institute to develop a Specialist Diploma in Security Consultancy, for security consultants to get formal certification for their role.
19. SPF has assessed that the risk of security consultants abusing their position to commit security-related offences is low, as they do not supply the actual security systems or have access to premises for the installation and maintenance of security systems. There has also been no reported case of such abuse in the past five years. Even as we move towards industry oversight, if security consultants abuse sensitive information obtained in the course of their work to commit crimes, they would be prosecuted under other applicable laws.
20. Clause 4 thus amends the PSIA to remove the mentioned activities from requiring licensing. Persons who provide any other security services that fall under section 18 of the PSIA, such as the sale, import, export, installation, or maintenance of security equipment, will continue to be licensed.
21. Mdm Deputy Speaker, in Mandarin please.
[Translation: Mdm Deputy Speaker, Singapore is one of the safest country in the world. Security officers are important partners to the Home Team in ensuring the safety and security of Singaporeans.]
[Translation: Three weeks ago, I tabled the Private Security Industry Act (Amendment) Bill for first reading. The Bill proposes two amendments. First, enhanced punishment for abuse of security officers and second, removal of licensing requirements for security consultants.]
[Translation: Singapore has a stringent licencing framework to regulate the security industry. All security officers must undergo and pass assessment for mandatory courses in order to be licenced. This ensures that they remain calm, and are able to maintain public order and safety during an incident. However, security officers are often harassed by unreasonable members of public, and sometimes verbally and physically abused.]
[Translation: Security officers are just performing their duties when enforcing rules or regulations of the premises they protect. Would we prefer the security officers to be irresponsible and shun their duties? Security officers are often caught in a bind – they are sometimes scolded for firmly discharging their duties, and also scolded for not discharging their duties firmly.]
[Translation: In moving this Bill, we want to remind everyone to respect and protect the interest of security officers and deter abuse. We often say that we should not do onto others, what we do not want done to us. I appeal for everyone to continue to work with the industry and union to raise industry standards, and respect and recognize the important role played by security officers in ensuring we continue to enjoy living in a safe and secure Singapore.]
27. Mdm Deputy Speaker, security officers are important partners that support the Home Team’s efforts in keeping Singapore safe and secure. The nature of their work puts them at a higher risk of confrontation, and it is necessary to ensure that they are adequately protected under the law. It is also necessary to update our regulatory regime for security services, to keep up with industry developments.
28. Mdm Deputy Speaker, I beg to move.